Thursday, September 3, 2015

Interview + GIVEAWAY: Beth K. Vogt


Crazy Little Thing Called Love (click on title to see my review) was my first read by Beth K. Vogt, and let me just say that I will be reading more by her soon. It's a character-driven story about relationships and while romance is a major theme, there's nothing fluffy about this story. Here's a brief description . . .

        Marriage is serious business — both for the couple tying the knot and for wedding vendors, with the average cost of an American wedding topping $25,000. As budgets get stretched, so can fraying nerves and already-taut emotions, as captured in Beth K. Vogt’s new Destination Wedding series.
        In the first novel in the series, Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Howard Books/June 30, 2015/ISBN: 978-1476789781/$14.99), paramedic Vanessa Hollister thinks she has moved beyond the pain of her first marriage — a “what-were-you-thinking” teenage elopement — and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Fla., with her new fiancé. Her dream of an idyllic beach wedding is disrupted, though, with the sudden reappearance of her first husband.

Now enjoy as Beth shares some thoughts in this wonderful interview, compliments of Litfuse Publicity . . .

Q: Crazy Little Thing Called Love is the first book in your new Destination Wedding Series. Tell us a little about where the idea came from and what you’re most excited about for this new series.

I discussed the idea of writing a series with my mentor and friend, author Rachel Hauck, as well as my agent, Rachelle Gardner. I was thrilled Howard Books liked the idea of the Destination Wedding series. So often in contemporary romance novels, the wedding comes at the end of the novel — often as an epilogue. In this series, the wedding is a main plot point. And travel — well, so many people love to read about new places, right? So combining weddings with new destinations — to me, that was a win-win situation.


Q: If you had the chance to plan a destination wedding, where would you go and why?

My destination wedding series focuses on wedding locations in the U.S., so I’m going to pick a site within the 50 states (and because I live in Colorado, that’s ruled out). My husband, our youngest daughter and I vacationed in Bandon, Ore., several years ago with close friends; we rented a beach house. The sunsets and sunrises were lovely, and the town is so quaint. I think Bandon would make a great location for a destination wedding . . . maybe even for a novel!


Q: What was your inspiration for writing Crazy Little Thing Called Love?

I have several friends who met in high school and ended up getting married — and they’ve stayed married, I’m happy to report. When my husband and I were dating, we talked briefly of eloping — very briefly. And I think everyone looks back on their high school years and can think of at least one decision they made, a romantic one or a just a general life decision, and they wonder, “What if?” What if they had done things differently?


Q: You usually have a high-concept question you weave into your stories. What was the main question for Crazy Little Thing Called Love?

I believe a Story Question is what fuels a novel. It’s what your characters are wrestling with from chapter one to the end. And it’s often a question readers might wrestle with too. For Crazy Little Thing Called Love, I focused on this Story Question: What if you realized what you thought was your worst mistake actually was the right choice?


Q: How did growing up in a military family that moves around frequently impact the person Vanessa became?

Remember, as the author I got to plot exactly how Vanessa was affected by being part of a military family; her experience isn’t true for every military child. She moved around a lot and had difficulty forming lasting friendships. This can be a challenge when a family moves every couple of years. The way I summed it up in Crazy Little Thing Called Love is that Vanessa was good at saying hello and goodbye, but she didn’t know how to do the relationship in between.


Q: To grow closer to God, Vanessa starts writing prayers in her journal. What do you do in your own quiet time with the Lord that helps you remain close to him?

Listening to praise-and-worship music has always been an important part of my quiet times. I’ve created worship playlists on Spotify, compiling my favorite songs. A few years ago I discovered the book Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth. I’m not an artist, but this book, which details how to incorporate drawing into your prayer time, rejuvenated my quiet time. I also like to read my Bible in tandem with a specific book. Right now I am reading Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity by J. Scott McElroy, which a friend gave me for Christmas.


Q: Why did you want to choose a risky profession for Logan’s character? What kind of research did you have to do to represent it well?

I knew Logan needed to be in a profession that was risky because I wanted him to challenge Vanessa to move past all the boundaries she’d put around herself. I wanted to choose something outside the box. So I mulled for a few days — mulling is a huge part of the writing process. And the idea “storm chaser” came to mind. I would have loved to have time to do more research about storm chasing; there’s just never enough time to do everything I want. I’ve read some about storm chasers and have always been intrigued about why someone would run toward a tornado instead of running for safety. And I discovered they are not just thrill seekers. They are scientists, motivated by a desire to understand storms better, to help protect people. I read some books and did research online to understand storm chasers further.


Q: What can we expect from you next?

More Destination Wedding stories! I’m working on another novella and another novel (Almost Like Being in Love) for 2016. I’m intrigued by Logan’s little sister’s story: What happens with Caron and Alex? And there are always other stories perking in my brain, sparked by conversations, news stories and random things I run across in my day-to-day life. Did you know you can rent a bridesmaid? Now how intriguing is that? And I’ve already started a list of “What if?” ideas for other stories.

For more information about Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Beth K. Vogt visit www.bethvogt.com, become a fan on Facebook (AuthorBethKVogt) or follow her on Twitter (@bethvogt) and Pinterest (beth_vogt).

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GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for Crazy Thing Called Love . . .

1) Please go to my Facebook page and share about this giveaway ("likes" to my FB page are not required, but very much appreciated).

2) The destination wedding theme features prominently in this story. What would be your ideal destination for a wedding or vow renewal?

BE SURE to leave your name and email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. Contest ends at midnight PST on Monday, September 7. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.

Eligibility: US residents

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

To Get to You: Release + Road Trip Giveaway



It is rare to come upon such a unique author as Joanne Bischof, but after reading the first book in her Cadence of Grace series, I realized there was an intangible difference to her writing, an almost ethereal quality to it. Joanne writes from the heart with characters who are very real and relatable, never failing to capture my emotions.

So it is with great pleasure that I get to share about Joanne's new release, To Get to You, and also about an exciting giveaway. In the coming weeks, you'll be hearing more about this story, book #1 in A Wild Air series. First, a little about To Get to You . . .



AmazonB&N

To get to the girl he loves, Riley Kane must head off on a road trip with the father he never knew. Then pray for a miracle.

Most teens would love to have a pro surfer for a dad. Just not Riley. Abandoned as a kid, he hates the sound of the ocean and the man who gave himself to it.

When the eighteen-year-old learns that his best friend is stranded at a New Mexico hospital as her father fights for his life, Riley hits the highway to head east. But when his Jeep breaks down before he even leaves California, he must rely on the one man he despises to get to the girl who needs him the most. And when it comes to the surfer with the Volkswagen van and dog-eared map, a thousand miles may–or may not–be enough to heal the past.

A story of new beginnings and second chances.


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Joanne is celebrating the release of To Get to You with a fantastic Road Trip Giveaway . . . two bundles of goodies that are perfect for hitting the road! Visit Joanne's website or click on the image below for prize details and to enter.




Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review: Until My Name Is Known


Until My Name Is Known
By Sonya Contreras
Tell of My Kingdon's Glory, #1
Bull Head Press, 2015


Summary

The Exodus of the Jews from Egypt is a love story between God and His people. God woos His people to Himself as He prepares them to leave. Before leaving, God must fight Pharaoh for possession of His people. See how God changes all people: some for the better, others not. None stay the same. How will He change you? Can you trust a God Who destroyed a nation before your eyes? Would you want Him as your Friend?

See God free His people from Egypt's bonds before a watching world. Trace His Finger in the lives He touches. The time: 2450 BC. The Place: Old Kingdom of Egypt where Pharaoh is god. His people worship him. Israel's God arrives. He challenges Pharaoh. His power touches all people. They must change. Some do not concede. They suffer. Others yield. They find freedom.

Until My Name Is Known brings all to see the one true God. Read it to see Him. Today's historians and archaeologists puzzle over the fall of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, But the world at that time heard of God. The world knew that He is the Lord. His Name was proclaimed in all the earth.


My thoughts

Until My Name Is Known is a work of biblical fiction, spanning the time from the call of Moses at the burning bush to when the Israelites stand on the other side of the Red Sea. Sonya is passionate about retelling the Exodus story in a fresh way, through a variety of Egyptian and Hebrew characters, and showing God's faithfulness throughout. While it didn't quite pull me in as a work of fiction, there were parts that I did enjoy.

Sonya gives much attention to historical detail and the archeological influence adds a fresh touch. It was interesting to think what it might have been like to be the wife or mother of a firstborn son. Zipporah gives voice to man's questioning of God as she struggles with a God who would require such a mission from her husband.  And then there's the age-old problem of pain and suffering, reflected in Aaron's question, "Will anyone seek God, if he doesn't know he needs God?"

One reminder of God's faithfulness is something that I haven't often thought about, and that's the carrying of Joseph's bones out of Egypt. "God heard the desire of a man and granted it four hundred and twenty years later. "

Several themes are woven through the framework of this book - that there is but one true God and He is more powerful than any god of man, the need to totally trust God - but the overarching theme is God's constant faithfulness. I need and welcome constant reminders of these aspects of God's nature.

The series continues with book #2, I Have Called You by Name. I believe that fans of biblical fiction rich in historical and archaeological detail would enjoy this book.

Litfuse landing page:

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Growing up with five sisters, Sonya Contreras asked God many questions, even when she did not like His answers. Graduating from Cedarville University and Institute for Creation Research with a Masters Degree in Science Education did not stop her questions. Marrying her best friend and homeschooling their eight sons, she found that dreams do come true, in spite of unanswered questions.

Find Sonya online at sonyacontreras.com and Twitter.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Your Best Happily Ever After


Your Best Happily Ever After
By Ginger Kolbaba
Shiloh Run, 2015


Summary

Cinderella. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. Rapunzel. These beloved stories all conclude with, “. . .and they lived happily ever after.” We sigh, smile, and know there’s an amazing story of love, adventure, and redemption coming.

We all yearn for a fairy tale life, but too often our existence feels less like the pages of a storybook and more like a bad reality TV show. From poisoned apples (sin) and Ugly Stepsisters (joy-stealers) to magic mirrors (real beauty is more than skin-deep) and glass slippers (God’s perfect calling for us), the truth is that as daughters of God, we can live the perfect story the Author has written for our lives—we can experience the happily ever after that He has penned for us, now, regardless of our circumstances!

Writer, speaker, and surrogate fairy godmother Ginger Kolbaba offers encouragement, challenges, biblical insights, and a little humor on how God wants us to live and love our stories in the here and now.


My thoughts

I grew up loving fairy tales - and, while the characters can go through all kinds of trials and difficulties, I still want the fiction I read to have that "happily ever after" ending. However, it doesn't take long to realize that any similarity between real life and fairy tales comes to a screeching halt at The End. . . . But wait! There's a spiritual HEA that's available to every Christian, yet I suspect many aren't sure how to avail themselves of all that God freely gives for our daily walk. These spiritual blessings come during and in spite of life's dark times, and that's exactly what Ginger brings out in this book. Your Best Happily Ever After is not a book about marriage, but rather a book of life lessons, relationship lessons applicable to any situation.

First of all, the physical book is lovely in style, pages similar to popular devotional books with uneven edges, really appealing to hold in your hands.  Each chapter revolves around a particular fairy tale or character, draws from applicable Scripture, and ends with points upon which to reflect. I don't think I've ever seen such an ingenious concept for a practical Christian living book! Who knew such impactful spiritual lessons could be drawn from Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White? Ginger's style is to capture your attention with her engaging prose, relatable personal stories, hilarious sense of humor, and then drive home her point. After reading this, I believe I'd pick up anything Ginger writes.

One thought that stood out to me is how "God answers our prayers by giving us opportunities to grow into those answers." For example, we might pray for patience, only to have God give us opportunities to show patience. And drawn from the story of Ruth in the Old Testament, "Faith is choosing, when we can't see the outcome, to believe that God will not let us fall."

While this book is certainly applicable to anyone, no matter where they are in their faith journey, I almost think it should be required reading for older teens, college age and young adults in general. Actually, I even think men would enjoy and benefit from it. Your Best Happily Ever After would make a great graduation gift.

Highly recommended.

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Ginger Kolbaba is editor of discipleship and women’s resources, including Today’s Christian Woman magazine and Marriage Partnership.com, both award-winning publications of Christianity Today International. She has been a columnist for Let’s Worship and has published more than 250 articles. Also an accomplished book author, Ginger has written or contributed to fifteen books, including her most recent novel series, Secrets from Lulu’s Café, which includes Desperate Pastors’ Wives, A Matter of Wife and Death, and Katt’s in the Cradle.

Ginger also teaches and speaks across the country. She’s appeared on national venues such as CNN’s Nancy Grace and Court TV’s Catherine Crier Live, as well as Family Life Radio and Moody Radio’s Midday Connection. When she isn’t chained to her computer, Ginger enjoys spending time with her husband motorcycling through the countryside, visiting Yellowstone National Park, walking her Doberman, reading good books, and talking theory with her friends about the television series Lost. She believes one of her greatest accomplishments would be dusting off her piano and treadmill and using them both—at least once this year.

Find Ginger online at gingerkolbaba.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you to Barbour Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Hope Harbor


Hope Harbor
By Irene Hannon
Hope Harbor #1
Revell, 2015


Summary

Come home to Hope Harbor--where hearts heal . . . and love blooms.

Tracy Campbell never wanted to leave Hope Harbor, Oregon, or the idyllic three-generation cranberry farm where she grew up. But life--and love--altered her plans. Now she's home again--with a floundering farm to run . . . a tragic secret . . . and a wounded heart. Romance is not on her agenda.

Nor is it on Michael Hunter's. The visitor from Chicago has daunting secrets and devastating regrets of his own. But when Tracy recruits him to help with a project that is close to her heart, winds of change begin to sweep through Hope Harbor, bringing healing, hope, and love to countless lives--including their own.


My thoughts

Hope Harbor is very different from Irene's popular suspense novels, and that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Although suspense isn't my favorite genre, Irene Hannon is one of the few suspense authors that I do enjoy - yet it's her contemporary romances that I enjoy most. Rather than being action packed, Hope Harbor is a heartwarming story, poignant, uplifting - and, as the title suggests, filled with hope. It is a character-driven story with sweet romance, charming setting, and characters so real that they could live in any of our neighborhoods.



The story is set in the fictional small town of Hope Harbor, Oregon - and I could so easily visualize an evening walk on the beach with the famous sea stack rock formations in the distance. The small-town, coastal setting and close-knit community brought Macomber's Cedar Cove to mind. Tracy's family cranberry farm also featured prominently and I enjoyed learning about the methods and hard work that go into the process.

Tracy and Michael's growing feelings for each other are first based on friendship, which is something I love to see in a romance novel, and the chemistry between them feels real. Michael's landlady, Anna, has a strong role, and all three of these characters are burdened with guilt and devastating regret over past actions. Who of us can't relate to that in some form or fashion, having discovered that guilt has only one cure. And then there's Charley, with his much sought-after fish tacos, who has an almost supernatural insight into people's deep, unspoken needs. I suspect there's some spiritual symbolism embodied in this beloved character.

As I reflect back on Hope Harbor, I'm impressed at the way Irene brings these characters into each other's lives, using both their natural talents and spiritual giftedness to help - all in a way that begs the question, coincidence, fate . . . or God? I loved Charley's pointed words to Anna that coincidence is "God's way of remaining anonymous."

The spiritual theme of forgiveness is unmistakably, but gently, woven throughout - forgiveness not just of others, but of self. This story made me step back and reflect on how I treat loved ones, impressing upon me how essential understanding and empathy are, and how crucial being willing to take that first step to initiate reconciliation can be. Above all, Hope Harbor is a story of hope.

By the way, there's only one thing missing, and that's the Harbor Point Cranberry Nut Cake recipe! (Sorry, couldn't resist, Irene.) I have become invested in this community and eagerly await the next Hope Harbor book, coming in summer 2016. Highly recommended to all readers.


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Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than forty-five novels, including That Certain Summer, One Perfect Spring, and the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, three HOLT Medallions, a Daphne du Maurier Award, two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers' Choice Award, a Booksellers' Best Award, and a National Readers' Choice Award. In addition, she is a two-time Christy Award finalist, and Booklist included one of her novels in its "Top 10 Inspirational Fiction" list for 2011. She lives in Missouri.

Find Irene online at irenehannon.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review + GIVEAWAY: Among the Fair Magnolias


Among the Fair Magnolias
By Tamera Alexander, Shelley Gray, Dorothy Love, Elizabeth Musser
Thomas Nelson, 2015


Among the Fair Magnolias is a wonderfully entertaining and moving collection of stories. It's all about historical romance and being southern fiction is a bonus for me, but these character-driven stories rise above that genre with their compelling storylines set during a turbulent time in America's history from 1860-1878. There's no way I could pick a favorite because all are well written and compelling in their own way.

Among the Fair Magnolias . . . What an evocative title for these four novellas featuring Southern women with hidden depths! As a life-long resident of Georgia, I've always known of the magnolia blossom's association with the perseverance, dignity, and strength that Southern women possess - the ingrained ability to not just endure hardships, but to rise above them. And that is exactly what you will find here. I delight in recommending this novella collection with surprising depth.


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A Heart So True
by Dorothy Love
Abigail knows all too well what is expected of her: to marry her distant cousin Charles and take her place in society. But her heart belongs to another. A terrible incident forces Abby to choose between love and duty.

Duty, politics, physical abuse and action that held my interest are just a few elements that we see in Dorothy's story. I loved revisiting the Pawleys Island, South Carolina, setting of Carolina Gold and even seeing a few familiar faces. So glad Dorothy brought us back there. Wish there could have been a little more "together" time and relationship development for Abigail and Wade, but still very enjoyable.


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To Mend a Dream
by Tamera Alexander
Savannah Darby would do almost anything to revisit her family home. So when new owner, Aidan Bedford, a Boston attorney and former Union soldier, seeks to redecorate the house for his fiancée, Savannah jumps at the opportunity. But the clock is ticking. Can she find the box her father supposedly hid there during the war before her assignment is completed? And before she sees yet another battle lost on the home front. This time, one of the heart.

Savannah Darby was a memorable secondary character in To Win Her Favor and I'm so glad Tamera was able to feature her here. This is a beautiful and poignant story packed with intricacies skillfully woven together. Everything about Savannah and Aidan is real and touching, with great chemistry between them. And the story beautifully illustrates God's quiet orchestration of our lives, expressed as they reflected on how often "He interlaced such painful parts of this earthly journey with such joyous ones, weaving them together with such skill and grace. And beauty."


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Love Beyond Limits
by Elizabeth Musser
Emily has a secret: She’s in love with one of the freedmen on her family’s plantation. Meanwhile, another man declares his love for her. Emily realizes some things are not as they seem and secrets must be kept in order to keep those she loves safe.

This is the first story by Elizabeth Musser that I've read and let me just say that I will be searching for more immediately, for anyone who  can write such a moving and eye-opening story as this demands my attention. I loved the Georgia setting, although I learned a lot about my state's Reconstruction history that I'm not proud of. Elizabeth spins a poignant story that features themes of racial superiority and "taboo" relationships, making me realize that our world hasn't progressed all that much. And I had so much admiration for the lead characters, Emily and Thomas.


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An Outlaw’s Heart
by Shelley Gray
When Russell Stark returns to Fort Worth, he’s determined to begin a new life. But when he arrives at his mother’s homestead, he discovers she’s very ill, and the woman he loved is still as beautiful and sweet as he remembered. With time running out, Russell must come to terms with both his future and his past.

Up until now, all I have read by Shelley Gray has been Amish fiction, but it's evident that her creative storytelling ability carries over to other genres as well. Russell Champion's story evolved from Shelley's previous historical series and I simply loved this flawed character, as well as Nora and others in the town. Poignant and touching, this story beautifully conveys forgiveness, change, and that we shouldn't always define people by their past - and that you really can go home!


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        Tamera Alexander is the best-selling author of numerous books including “A Lasting Impression” and “The Inheritance.” Tamera is a two-time Christy Award winner, two-time RITA winner, and a recipient of the prestigious Library Journal Award.
        A native of west Tennessee,Dorothy Love makes her home in the Texas hill country with her husband and their golden retriever. An award-winning author of numerous young adult novels, Dorothy made her adult debut with the Hickory Ridge novels.
        Shelley Gray is the author of The Heart of a Hero series. Her Amish novel (written as Shelley Shepard Gray), “The Protector,” recently made the New York Times best seller list.
        Elizabeth Musser, a native of Atlanta, Georgia now living in France, is a novelist who writes what she calls ‘entertainment with a soul.’ For over 25 years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in mission work with International Teams.

Find out more about Alexander, Gray, Love, Musser at http://www.thomasnelson.com/among-the-fair-magnolias.

The post Story Spotlight on ‘Among the Fair Magnolias’ appeared first on Litfuse Publicity Group.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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GIVEAWAY

To enter the drawing for Among the Fair Magnolias . . .

1) Please go to my Facebook page and share about this giveaway ("likes" to my FB page are not required, but very much appreciated).

2) Simply leave a comment as to why this book appeals to you.

Name and email address required for entry - leave in a safe format - [at] and [dot]. Contest ends at midnight PST on Sunday, August 30. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents